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What Dave Chapelle Ate Last Night at the Kennedy Center

Eater went behind the scenes at the annual awards show

The glitzy setup Sunday night at the Kennedy Center.
Photo by Daniel Swartz

Last night the Kennedy Center transformed into a party palace fit for Hollywood elite, which included comedian and D.C. native Dave Chapelle, country crooner Luke Bryan, top ballerina Misty Copeland, and Sound of Music actress Julie Andrews.

The 40th annual Kennedy Center Honors, which doled out achievement awards to musicians L.L. Cool J and Lionel Richie among others, let guests work up an appetite (the ceremony didn’t wrap up until around 10 p.m.). That’s when Chandon pops started echoing through the cavernous main hall as plates paraded out from a giant pop-up kitchen for the 1,800-seat exclusive post-show dinner. Honorees and nominees had extra-fancy seating arrangements, at long glass-topped tables with towering red rose-filled centerpieces.

On the menu was a winter wedge salad with squash, hazelnuts, ricotta salata, radish, and green goddess dressing. The main event was a hearty affair: braised short rib with root vegetables, parsnip mousseline, and cabernet-port reduction. Guests polished off plates of salted ganache brownies and lemon marie tarts before hitting the dance floor.

The starring entree at the Kennedy Center Honors dinner.
Photo by Daniel Swartz

Catering company Restaurant Associates pulled off the extravagant affair at the Kennedy Center, which let media get a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes action for the first time this year. Here’s how RA did it:

How many got fed. 1,800 for the main dinner; 500 during a CBS reception; 300 for Honoree Reception, as well as 450 stage crew, over 350 backstage artists and presenters, plus the chairmans’ luncheon the day before (450).

Cooking central. A 13,000-square-foot heated tent featured two kitchens, four service bars, and 20 plate up lines.

Desserts for days. Pasty chef Kendra Stephens and team prepared over 5,000 mini desserts throughout the weekend.

The sweets situation at the Kennedy Center Honors.
Photo by Daniel Swartz

Time crunched. The tent set up began the Tuesday prior to honors. Food production began at the crack of dawn November 30 and went straight through up until go time.

Staff: 125 culinary staff, 210 butlers, 20 floor managers and captains.

The band performed in the shadow of JFK’s bust at the Kennedy Center Honors.
Photo by Daniel Swartz

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